INTERSECTIONALITY OF THE CuLTURAl/PoLITICAL Environment and Social Identifiers

Gordon and Taft (2011), Allen and Bang (2015), Lay (2005), Quintelier (2009), and Attar-Schwartz and Ben-Arieh (2012) argued that ethnicity, political and socio-economic status, culture, a country’s political structure, and gender are social identifiers and have a significant impact on children’s and youths’ political agency. Social identifiers craft the interactions within the community’s different contexts. A social identifier is a disposition that is integrated within an individual’ s agency and identity and therefore forms different interactions. Therefore, it is important to look at individuals considered as minority, as minorities’ political agency has to embrace two acts simultaneously: combatting cultural discrimination while ensuring their voice is heard. Flanaga, Syverten, Gill, Gallay, and Cumsille (2009) researched the impact of prejudice on minority adolescents as it is related to cultural awareness and national identity in the USA. The study found that minorities’ youth embrace their cultural identity regardless of whether having individual experience of prejudice or not. The assumption that minority youth become aware of their cultural heritage only if they experience prejudice is inadequate. In addition, the research found that some youth did not view government as being fairly equal to all minorities due to personal and family experience of prejudice. Cultural awareness strengthened youth identity, but prejudice hindered the positive view about the government. African American and other minority groups indicated that US government does not treat all groups equally due to ethnicity. This notion was also echoed by the work of Chong and Kim (2006), who hypothesized that social and economic mobility of minorities might enhance equal status and political participation. Individuals who were permeable in the economic opportunities tend to have racial identity as a secondary compared to economic success. Race as a social identifier represented a unique interaction with the political structure. The analysis supported that “racial and ethnic group interests is strengthened by the failure of society to equality of opportunity and weakened by favorable experiences of economic status” (p. 348). If race constrains economic opportunities for minorities, it equally limits political opportunity. Structural barriers hindered minorities’ mobility, by which political participation tend to be based on group solidarity for a collective interest. The intersectionality of race frames political agency and aspiration. For example, African American political agency as practiced in the Civil Rights movement shows how a community with the same social identifier comes together to challenge the political system’s discrimination against them based on that identifier. Political participation is subjected and subjugated by the systemic racism embedded in the system and the collective experience of solidarity (Chong & Kim, 2006).

The social identifier embedded in ethnicity framed youth political agency and its possibilities and limitations within the society and political socialization. Hopkins and Pain (2007) articulated that these social markers characterize the intersectionality and the intergenerationality interactions between children’ s agency and different contexts. This is evident in the work of Bloemraad and Trost (2008), in which minority children mobilized parents’ generation to partake in the right of immigration rallies. The social identifiers of minorities’ youth are embedded in the understanding of the systematic discrimination they face and of the dos and do nots early in their life compared to children who enjoy the privilege of the system (Fridkin, Kenney, & Crittenden, 2006; Quintelier, 2009). The disposition of this identifier is in the structural barriers that created the foundation of political agency and expectations of community involvement. Habashi (2013) identified refugee status as one social identifier of Palestinian political agency.

Palestinian history is rooted in a collective expulsion and displacement and the establishment of the State of Israel. The status of refugee is not associated with one generation; on the contrary, it is an identifier for third and fourth generations similar to the earlier generations, and this is due to youth utilizing their political agency to integrate the family narrative of their political status. The structural barrier of Israeli occupation is in the static and continuing oppression and frames youth as co-authoring historical memories. One 15-year-old female participant from a city notes, “Today I will write about Palestinian history, a history I didn’t live in but can write about this subject because I know many details about it, as if I was part of it because many people talk about that subject, and it has many affects in our daily lives.”

The narrative of refugees is part of the national discourse as inscribed in historical oppression and the first displacement of Palestinians in 1948, known as Al-Nakbeh, a 14-year-old female from a city noteed, “Today we had a celebration of Al-Nakbeh Anniversary [Palestinian catastrophe, 1948], and we all agreed to wear Palestine’s Hattah [Keffiyeh] and we hold banners which we hung later on the school walls, and we dressed shirts inscribed with the right of return. This is how we remember our case by writing phrases on our hands or on the chalkboard.” Being a refugee with a family narrative that passes on from one generation to another engraved a social identifier that impacted youth agency and interaction in the Palestinian community. Political status of refugees renders similar intersectionality of social identifiers as social and political status of minorities. Fridkin et al. (2006) argued that youth awareness of their ethnicity influences their understanding of politics and therefore political agency, “the power of children’ s experiences as represented by the crude of measures of ethnicity and race, appears to be related to several measures of engagement, even in the face of controls for family and school resources” (p. 619). Political awareness of their ethnicity is related to the structural barriers that tend to engage mainstream culture. Hence, it is a limited perspective to conclude that youth agency does not engage in politics. An example of such a political alienation embedded in the local/global political barriers is demonstrated in the reflection of a 14-year-old female participant from a village discussing a visit to her brother who is in Israeli jail for security reason. This participant exemplified political agency experiences that is shaped by daily life and interacts with the socio-political narrative:

I heard news about George Bush’s visit to Palestine, and I was disappointed; how can he visit our holy land after he has killed killed thousands of Iraqis, and millions of Iraqi children have become orphans as a consequence. I was preparing for my brother’s (Bashar) visit in the Israeli security jail; he was waiting for us. Today I went to school and I did two exams; one of them was supposed to be tomorrow. When I went to school, my friend (her father also is in Israeli’s jail) told me that the visit was postponed because of Bush’s visit. I was so upset because I couldn’t visit my brother; I want to see him. We all Palestinians are disappointed with his official visit.

The political status of children from marginalized cultures tends to shape their participation in politics that is not conventional in its nature, as “students who tend to gravitate towards unconventional participation are also those who feel alienated” (Allen & Bang, 2015, p. 42). The social identifier, “Palestinian,” alienated the previous participant from the political process and interacted with placing her brother in Israeli jail, while the global discourse of the Bush visit and its relation to Iraq also interacted with the participant’s reality. Hence, social identifiers as associated with mainstream Western culture are embedded with youth that reflect their history, politics, and privilege (Fridkin et al., 2006). Family and youth that belong to such mainstream groups tend to participate in voting, civic engagement, and other political activities such as sending letters, petitioning, and others (Godfrey & Grayman, 2014; Hart & Kirshner, 2009; Talo, Mannarini, & Rochira, 2014). Inaway, it corresponds to lack of minorities’ participation with the mainstream politics and political process as they lack access to power structure (Gordon & Taft, 2011). Minorities are at a disadvantage compared to those who belong to the “mainstream,” which defines their interactions with intersectionality, intergenerationality, and life course (Hopkins & Pain, 2007).

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